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UN forum closes in Bahrain with the spotlight on entrepreneurs for sustainable development

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A United Nations forum on sustainable development concluded today in Bahrain with a strong call for the integration of entrepreneurship and innovation in all economic and social dimensions as key strategies to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In particular, the World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum (WEIF) 2017 -– having over 60 per cent of participants women – underscored the importance of the role of women’s entrepreneurship.

“We recommend for the active involvement of women in all sectors related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through entrepreneurship and innovation,” read the World Forum’s outcome declaration / communique.

The World Forum also called upon governments, the private sector, academia, civil society, media and international organizations to facilitate the work of entrepreneurs and innovators to ensure sustainable development.

Speaking at a press conference where the outcome – “Manama Declaration” – was unveiled, Miroslav Lajčák, the President of the General Assembly, also highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“We must offer better incentives to induce entrepreneurs and innovators to invest in SDGs [to] unleash and foster a dynamic private sector and ensure competitiveness,” he said, noting, in particular, the role of small and medium sized-enterprises, which often account for the majority of business activities at the national level.

“Supporting [these enterprises] is a proven strategy to build a robust economy from the ground up [and] helping businesses get off the ground and sustaining them through their initial phases helps generate employment, income and economic growth,” added Mr. Lajčák.

Further in his remarks, the President of the General Assembly highlighted the importance of the means of implementation for sustainable development, and called innovative partnerships between all sectors.

In that context, Mr. Lajčák noted that, in mid-2018, he will be convening a high-level event on sustainable development financing to foster discussions among UN Member States and other stakeholders on the important subject.

Organized under the overarching theme of achieving the SDGs through promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, the World Forum saw participation of more than 1,000 government officials, entrepreneurs, representatives of international organizations, civil society and the academia from over 90 countries.

Briefing on the World Forum’s discussions and outcomes, Hashim Hussein, the Executive Secretary of WEIF 2017 and the head of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Investment and Technology Promotion Office (ITPO) in Bahrain, noted that participants stressed the need to build and strengthen partnerships between entrepreneurs – both women and men alike.

“[The World Forum] urged stakeholders to foster the private sector as the main engine behind economic growth, structural change and innovation [and] identified the pressing need to promote competitive micro, small and medium-sized enterprises as the main driving force for empowerment of women and youth,” said Mr. Hussein.

In his remarks, the head of UNIDO ITPO-Bahrain also underscored the importance of sound economic policies, legislation and programmes – as key elements of sustainable development – to ensure the empowerment of women at the national, regional and global levels.

Also at the press conference, Samir Aldarabi, the Director of the UN Information Centre in Manama, recalled the message of UN Secretary-General António Guterres to the Forum, in which the Secretary-General said that “inclusive and sustainable industrial development will continue to be a key driver of progress as [the United Nations] supports Member States in this essential work.”

Looking ahead, Mr. Aldarabi informed that the World Forum will be held every two years in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, and that in 2020 it will be organized in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Also speaking at the occasion were the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Bahrain, Amin El Sharkawi; and the Under Secretary for International Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.

Organized by UNIDO in partnership with the Government of Bahrain, the World Entrepreneurs and Investment Forum 2017, held from 31 October to 2 November, saw key events on the Maritime-Continental Silk Road; addressing challenges faced by women in industry; global impact investing; recognition of men and women business leaders for their contributions to sustainable development; the Bahrain Entrepreneurs Exhibition; and a side event on implementation of SDGs in Bahrain.

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Afghanistan: EU reinforces humanitarian support with €40 million as crisis worsens

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The European Commission has allocated an additional €40 million in emergency assistance for those affected by the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, as well as for Afghan refugees in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran. This brings total EU humanitarian aid for the Afghan crisis to €77 million in 2019: €61 million in Afghanistan, €9 million in Pakistan and €7 million in Iran.

The humanitarian outlook in Afghanistan is as bleak as ever. Not only has the conflict between the government and non-state armed groups intensified since the beginning of the year, but devastating floods have also hit this war-torn country. The EU is boosting humanitarian aid to help those most in need, especially children,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.

The new funding will get aid to the most vulnerable families across the country, focusing on the victims of war, forced displacement and natural disasters, as well as returning Afghan refugees. This includes providing emergency healthcare, shelter, food, access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and protection services, targeting women and children. The EU will also continue to provide education for children who have had to leave their schools.

In Pakistan, the EU funding will provide assistance to Afghan refugees, as well as internally displaced Pakistanis. In Iran, EU aid will ensure the delivery of vital assistance, including protection and access to basic services such as education and healthcare, to Afghan refugees in the country.

The EU has funded humanitarian operations in Afghanistan since 1992, providing up to €872 million to date. Funds are allocated strictly on the basis of the humanitarian principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality to ensure access to those in need and are only provided to humanitarian organisations.

Background

Afghanistan is one of the most violent crisis-ridden countries in the world. The worst-hit communities are those that have been displaced or have lost access to basic services due to the conflict between government forces and armed opposition groups, which has worsened since the beginning of 2018. While the conflict continues to limit people’s access to basic services and lifesaving assistance, the total number of displaced people has risen to almost 3.4 million. Meanwhile, at least 6 million Afghans still live as refugees in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, many of them without registration or legal status.

The risks of natural hazards further aggravates the humanitarian needs. The aftermath of the 2018 drought and 2019 floods continue to affect over 6.2 million people in 22 out of 34 provinces across Afghanistan.

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Regional Conference on Air Quality Management in the Western Balkans

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Government representatives from North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Serbia met today in Skopje for a regional conference on Air Quality Management – Issues, Solutions, and Financing Approaches. Jointly hosted by the Government of North Macedonia and the World Bank, the conference was an opportunity to learn from experiences from the Western Balkans and from EU and other countries (such as India and China) about innovative ways to approach air quality management, mobilize knowledge, and encourage stronger regional cooperation in this area.

Ambient air pollution (AAP) is a serious global health problem that accounts for an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths per year worldwide. Exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is especially dangerous to human health because these particles find their way deep into lungs and bloodstream resulting in serious health effects. Premature deaths and illnesses caused by air pollution can result in increased health expenditures and labor productivity losses. People in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans are frequently exposed to extremely high air pollution in urban areas often exceeding the levels considered safe by the WHO.

“Addressing air pollution in the Western Balkans is an environmental and public health challenge that needs to be urgently addressed and it is high on the agenda of the World Bank as well as many other partners working in the region,” said Marco Mantovanelli, World Bank Country Manager for North Macedonia and Kosovo. “We are pleased to be a part of these discussions today and are committed to continuing to support action to reduce air pollution and establish credible Air Quality Management systems in the region through advisory services, technical assistance, and mobilizing financing for investments.”

“We value the analytical support from the World Bank and are looking forward to working with them and other development partners to mobilize the needed financing to help improve our air quality and reduce the impacts poor air quality has on people’s health,” said Jani Makraduli, Deputy Minister of Environment and Physical Planning, also emphasizing the need for regional collaboration. “These discussions help to strengthen cooperation in the Western Balkans, which is particularly important given that a significant portion of air pollution is transboundary.”

The conference provided an opportunity to the World Bank to catalyze regional exchange and knowledge sharing and to present analytical findings from upcoming studies on the health and economic damage from air pollution in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and North Macedonia.  

The conference also discussed that a comprehensive approach to tacking air pollution in the Western Balkans could be composed of three core components: (a) Data, knowledge, and strategy, including development of comprehensive air quality management plans and investment strategies; (b) Measures to reduce exposure to air pollution in short-term, especially for the young, weak, and vulnerable; and (c) Measures and investments into the persistent medium- to long-term reduction of pollution levels below internationally accepted standards.  

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Ambitious Reforms for Stronger Economic Growth in Ukraine

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Economic growth in Ukraine picked up to 3.6 percent in the first half of 2019 and 4.2 percent in the third quarter driven by a strong agricultural harvest and consumption growth from higher wages, remittances, and a resumption of consumer lending, according to the World Bank’s latest Ukraine Economic Update. At the same time, investment growth has not yet picked up to levels needed for stronger and sustained economic growth.

“Delivering on the ambitious reform agenda of the new government to boost investment and economic growth will help create jobs and improve living standards,” said Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. “The key reforms include establishing a transparent and efficient agricultural land market, demonopolizing the gas sector through ownership unbundling of Naftogas, and increasing the efficiency of bank lending to the private sector by reducing non-performing loans in state-owned banks.”

If the key reforms move forward expeditiously, economic growth is projected at 3.6 percent in 2019, 3.7 percent in 2020, and 4.2 percent in 2021.

Sound fiscal and monetary management, including efforts to keep current public expenditures under control, are helping reduce public debt, inflation, and interest rates in 2019. Public and publicly guaranteed debt is projected to decline to 52 percent in 2019 from a peak of 81 percent in 2016. Inflation declined to 6.5 percent in October 2019 from 9.8 percent at end-2018, which has allowed the National Bank of Ukraine to reduce the key policy rate to 15.5 percent in October from 18 percent in April.

Continuing the prudent fiscal management going forward by addressing expenditure pressures from wages and social benefits will be important to further reduce inflation and interest rates and support stronger economic growth and higher living standards.

It will also be important to mobilize adequate external financing to meet significant public debt repayments in 2019-2021.

Establishing a land market for agricultural growth

According to the World Bank’s Special Focus Note, lifting the moratorium on agricultural land sales and establishing a transparent and efficient market for agricultural land has the potential to boost economic growth in Ukraine by 0.5 to 1.5 percent per year over a 5-year period.

Ukraine has the largest endowment of arable land in Europe, but agricultural productivity in Ukraine is a fraction of that in other European countries.

The moratorium on agriculture land sales is a major impediment to attracting investment and unlocking productivity in agriculture. The moratorium undermines the security of land tenure and incentives to undertake productivity enhancing investments such as irrigation, move into higher value-added crops, and adopt new technologies.

“The Draft Land Turnover Law passed the first reading in Rada last week in an important breakthrough,” said Faruk Khan, World Bank Lead Economist for Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. “Enactment of the land turnover law, along with complementary legislation needed to safeguard transparency and efficiency, will be a major milestone in strengthening Ukraine’s growth prospects going forward.

Access to financing for small, credit-constrained farmers will be important to enable them to participate in the market and improve their productivity.  Financing instruments should be effective and sustainable, which means targeting them to small farmers and designing them in a manner that provides incentives to improve productivity and adopt higher value-added crops and new technologies, at an affordable fiscal cost.

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